Issued on April 26, 2017
On April 26th, President Trump issued an Executive Order targeting the Antiquities Act of 1906, which gives the president the power to designate national monuments on federal lands. The EO directs the Secretary of the Interior to review all presidential designations since 1996 which cover more than 100,000 acres or are determined to have been made without adequate public outreach. On May 5th, the Department of the Interior released a list of 27 monuments under initial review and will begin formally accepting public comments on May 12 (submit comments here). Trump cites “egregious abuse of federal power” and impediments to economic prosperity and energy independence as the major drivers of the order (which congressional republicans lobbied him to release). LEARN MORE
Trump’s revocation of monuments would be the first of its kind, and sparks controversy over whether or not the president is legally entitled to reverse designations of previous presidents. While proponents of the changes argue that the power is consistent with the purpose of, and is implicit within, the Antiquities Act, many scholars argue that contemporaneous history, precedential court cases, related federal laws, and the purpose of the legislation give the president the power to quickly designate monuments, but reserve the power to revoke them for Congress (this precautionary measure allows the government to protect objects of historic/scientific significance while Congress reviews the monument).
In addition to facing legal controversy, Trump’s EO has received rebuke from organizations which value the important archaeological and cultural resources that national monuments protect. The controversial Bears Ears National Monument, which spurred Republicans to push for this EO, contains “tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings” and garnered significant support through collaboration between area residents and native tribes. Opponents also note the critical ecological protections woven into national monuments that are essential to maintain wilderness areas and to meet the objectives of the Endangered Species Act. Other organizations, such as the Outdoor Industry Association, offered economic rebuttals, pointing out the significant outdoor recreational economy, which generates over $887 billion in consumer spending and creates 7.6 million jobs annually. LEARN MORE
- Formally Submit Public Comments to the Department of the Interior
- National Parks Conservation Association – the only independent, nonpartisan membership organization devoted exclusively to advocacy on behalf of the National Parks System
- World Wildlife Fund – the world’s largest conservation organization, aims to protect and preserve the environment
This brief was compiled by Conor Downey. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.